President Donald Trump has warned Pakistan of extreme measures if it fails to prove an effective US partner in the fight against terrorism, especially in Afghanistan. This, of course, is America’s longest war. And it has not come cheap. The human cost has been around 2,400 soldiers and a-$1trillion dent to the war coffers. Thus has Trump spoken of the need to have “an honourable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.” Not surprisingly, responsibility for US losses across the border has fallen squarely on Pakistan’s shoulders. Islamabad’s support for the Haqqani network as well as the Taliban is what has made one of the most sophisticated armies in the world fail miserably in Afghanistan, so the argument goes. Pakistan has been a frontline US ally in the war against terror that began in the immediate post-9/11 environment – just as it had been during the latter’s military aggression towards the Soviet Union in the late 1970s. This has, in certain quarters, begged the following questions: if Pakistan could help Washington win that war then why not this one? Is it because the Soviets were our common enemies unlike the Afghan Taliban? Who is the US fighting in Afghanistan? In response to the latter – initially it was Al Qaeda who was the in the American firing line until attention switched to the Taliban. This despite the Taliban never having struck terror anywhere in the world. The same cannot be said of Al Qaeda. So warped has the prevailing narrative become that any Afghan who stands against the US military occupation of his country is immediately tainted as possible Taliban. This has tragically been the case with both the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Yet there is little hope that a force raised to fight its own people can ever summon the required ‘honour’ required to wage war on the real enemy. And now that Trump has disclosed that the US is neither interested in installing its own particular brand of democracy nor investing in nation building – the objective of the war has become clear: it was only to kill and then kill some more. Indeed, the US Secretary of Defence Gen John Mattis, a man credited as one of the major architects of the Trump vision in Afghanistan, has earned himself the nickname of ‘Mad Dog’ due to his reported war crimes record in Fallujah, Iraq. The US has not caught up to the new world order. Meaning that $900 million is no longer sufficient to keep Islamabad in this marriage of political inconvenience — not with Beijing waiting in the wings Trump wants to bring the war in Afghanistan to a close to honour fallen American soldiers. Yet what about the lives of innocent civilians who have been dying in that country for the last 16 years? Is their blood not worth honouring? How much more bloodshed will have to be spilled before the world’s lone super power finally wakes up and realises that terror has not gone global because of the Taliban supported by Pakistan? That this credit goes to warmongering generals in the US and that country’s military-industrial complex? According to the latest estimates from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan – the number of women and children killed has increased manifold in the first six months of this year alone. And now that Trump has given his generals the go-ahead to conduct combat operations in any way that they see fit – meaning without being micromanagement from Washington – the Afghans have nothing to look forward to but more destruction. The Afghan government has also been asked to take ownership of the quagmire. US assistance, Trump warned, is not a blank cheque that can continue oiling its administrative machinery, especially in the absence of concrete results. On this, he may have a point. Successive corrupt governments have, since 9/11, extended undue support to local warlords, thereby contributing to the destabilisation of the Afghan state. The US has, too, been guilty of trying to buy off warlords for peace. Presently, India is expected to step up financial assistance to Afghanistan – with no thought of how this will impact AF-Pak ties. Then there is the matter of the US nominating India as a third-party verification partner to sign off on Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts. The biggest problem in all this is that the US has not caught up to the new world order. Meaning that keeping a tight hold of Pakistan’s purse strings is no longer an option. After all, $900 million is no longer sufficient to keep Islamabad in this marriage of political inconvenience, not with Beijing waiting in the wings. Unless the US keeps pace with changing geo-political realities – even a Mad Dog will not win the Afghan war. The only way forward has to be a political settlement. And once the US begins to see the returns on the CPEC project, which will also happen to increase Russia’s economic stakes in Afghanistan, the US may even start to take note and want a piece of the peaceful action. The writer is a journalist she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, August 26th 2017.